Bald Mountain, ID

Time for my annual trip to the Sun Valley Idaho area to visit my brother and get in some hiking and backpacking. I spent 10 1/2 hours on the road Saturday, arriving in Sun Valley in time for dinner. My home is at 235' above sea level. Sun Valley is at about 5700'. My upcoming backpacking trip would be between 7000' and 10,000'. I needed to get in some hiking at elevation before heading out to backpack.

Bald Mountain is the main ski area at Ketchum/Sun Valley. The main trail winds around the mountain gaining 3400' in about 5 miles. The summit is at 9,150'. Ten miles round trip would be a good workout. The trail is popular and I expected to see lots of folks. It was only 38 degrees but sunny when I got up. By the time I did the one mile drive to the trailhead it was already 45 and warming fast.

I've been up Bald on two previous occasions. The trail is nicely graded. It starts in forest and crosses sagebrush slopes. There is more forest, crossings of grassy groomed ski runs, and lots of wildflowers in season. There are also some pretty nice views of the Pioneer, Boulder, Smokey, and Sawtooth Mountains. It was a little chilly at first but soon I was out in the sunshine and plenty warm. Mountain bikers can ride up the trail but not down. There is no way I would want to try to ride a bike up 3400'. My hat is off to those who do.

Ketchum sits right below as elevation is gained. Soon 12,000' Mt. Hyndman comes into view along with nearby Old Hyndman and Cobb Peak. Higher up a few wildflowers were still hanging on. Lupine, paintbrush, pearly everlasting, and asters would be right at home in the Washington Cascades. I felt fine at first but at 8,000' I began to feel less oxygen. The intermittent forest provided some nice shade as the unrelenting sun at 9000'. It felt much warmer than the 60 degree forecast. The mountain blocked the wind and as I approached the summit the wind began. It was as cold as any wind I felt last winter. It was bright and sunny and I pulled out my jacket.

The summit has a number of ski lift stations, a lounge, and a road leading to other parts of the mountain complex. Near the highest point is the old fire lookout building. Unlike any other lookout I have visited, this one is a telecommunications monster. It has antennas poking out every side. I made a quick visit and headed back to the lounge. The restaurant is closed but the building has many seats and it was warm. A few minutes outside in the wind had already numbed my fingers.

A lift runs at no charge this time of year. Many of the hikers chose to take the quick and easy ride back down the mountain. A number of us did hike down too. The day was clear and the views from the top were outstanding but after 50 minutes I was ready for the descent. Since the grade is steady and not too steep it was not hard coming down. Five miles of descent is still a ways but with the views the going was pleasant.

I felt pretty good at the bottom. One day hike has been enough in the past to get me ready for sleeping at over 8,000' and hiking to 10,000'. Now it was time to head back and get ready for some fun backpacking.


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Trips - 2010